France: The perpetual stranger

It took a school teacher for Fadela to realize she was not really French, despite having been born in the country and growing up there. I therefore wonder when was the first time she felt allegiance to Algeria.


Fadela Amara, French Secretary of State for Urban Policies and former president of the organization Ni Putes Ni Soumises:

"I am the child of Algerians who have chosen to fight alongside the FLN for the independence of Algeria, I knew how to face this unfortunate parenthesis (sic) of France, which has humiliated the country and the people of my heart. But I also know that France is capable of being wonderful and that it represents so well the ideals of freedom and equality.

Yes, I am proud to be French, even if I did not choose to be. I have to admit: the first time I realized that I was a foreigner was when, at school, my teacher asked me to raise the hand. At the time, on counting the number of foreigners in the class. Very naturally I told him: 'But I was born in
France, I am therefore French'. 'No, you are called Fadella,' he replied, 'you are therefore foreign'. This episode marked me apart.

So, when I was 17, I asked for a residence permit to keep immigrant status, as my parents. I did not want to cut the umbilical cord with them. Fortunately, despite the awkwardness of this teacher, the republican school saved me. I learned that if we at home certainly live differently according to our traditions, the school had it as a mission to prepare us for our future as citizens.

Souce: Nouvel Obs (French), with thanks to La Yijad en Eurabia for the tip and help in translation

See also: France: 50% Algerian, 50% French

Norway: Integration can lead to mental health problems for women

Social integration affects the mental health of non-Western male immigrants in a positive way. For women however, social integration gives an increased risk for mental problems according to a new study from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health (NIPH).

– We found that social integration among non-Western immigrants is linked to good mental health in men, but not in women. That was unexpected, says Professor Odd Steffen Dalgard from the Division for Mental Health at the NIPH.

Dalgard is the primary author of the article "Immigration, social integration and mental health in Norway, with focus on gender differences", published in BioMed Central: Clinical Practice and Epidemiology in Mental Health, where the results of the study are presented.

Challenges traditional female gender roles

A possible explanation for the gender differences is that social integration in Western countries challenges traditional female gender roles from non-Western countries to a greater degree than it challenges traditional male gender roles. This can lead to conflict of norms, threatened self-esteem and/or loss of feelings of identity.

– I believe this is because a large part of a woman's life in non-Western countries is often restricted to the family, which clashes strongly with the Norwegian woman's role. Another reason that social integration for non-Western women contributes to psychological problems in some cases can be that they are exposed to negative sanctions from the man's side if they seek contact with the Norwegian society, says Dalgard.

In this study non-Western immigrants were defined as women and men born in Eastern Europe, Asia or Africa, whilst Western immigrants were defined as women and men born in Western Europe or America.

– There is probably significant variation between different non-Western countries with regards to these conditions, but we do not have data that can highlight it, says Dalgard.

He adds that the survey shows being integrated in Norwegian society can bring adjustment problems that in the worst case can affect mental health.

The consequence of this must be that one is careful with making integration the only goal for immigration policy, especially when it concerns women with a foreign cultural background, says Dalgard.

Uses HUBRO-data

18 770 adults took part in Health Studies in Oslo (HUBRO) in 2000-2001 and the NIPH is responsible for maintaining the data. All men, women and youths in Oslo in 11 different age groups were invited to participate in HUBRO, which aimed to get an overview of the Oslo-population's health and collect research material. The study was a collaboration project between the City of Oslo, the University of Oslo and the predecessor to the current NIPH.

16 000 of the participants answered questions on mental health and their data are included in this study. 1 448 of the participants are immigrants from non-Western countries, whilst 1 059 are immigrants from Western countries.

Psychological problems are measured with ten questions from the Hopkins Symptom Check List (HSCL-10). Social integration is measured by knowledge of the Norwegian language, reading of Norwegian newspapers, visits from ethnic Norwegians, as well as receipt of help from ethnic Norwegians. Information about salaried work, household income, marital status, social support and conflicts in close relationships are also included.

Source: Norwegian Institute of Mental Health (English)

See also: Immigration, social integration and mental health in Norway, with focus on gender differences (English)

Netherlands: Salafi Islam Sunday school

Imam Fawaz's network is now working on Islamisizing little kids. A new association, working with Fawaz's radical As-Soennah mosque, is organizing strict religious lessons in Zoetermeer for children 5-14 years old.

The lessons are given in a municipality sports hall by 'brothers' of the Al-Ichlaas association (Al-Ikhlas, Oneness of God). Several dozen students have signed up. The children must dress according to a strict Islamic clothing code.

Mohamed Talbi, chairman of Al-Ichlaas, confirms the cooperation with the As-Soennah mosque in The Hague, one of the strongholds of the radical Salafist movement. "We also want to invite preacher from As-Soennah for lectures."

The security service AIVD regularly warns against the growing influence of Salafists. There are currently a dozen youth preachers active across the country, preaching a sharp anti-Western message to hundreds of Moroccan youth above 16.

The Zoetermeer association now wants to teach younger children the ultra-orthodox life and behavior rules, through koran education and Arabic lessons.

Talibi: We want to keep children from evil and prevent them from straying from the faith.

The association had requested from the tax authorities to be considered tax deductible (ANBI), which would give it various financial benefits.

Talbi supports Fawaz, despite the criticism the Moroccan community had expressed about the imam. Fawaz, who had called Theo Van Gogh, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Eshan Jami heretics had recently started a scandal when he attacked Ahmed Marcouch, mayor of Amsterdam-Slotervaart.

Source: Telegraaf (Dutch), Al-Ichlaas ad (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: Proposal to ban fatwas

Amsterdam: Homosexuality is a sin

Freedom of religion is once again being redefined.  At most, it protect one's rights to follow their religion.  You believe homosexuality is a sin - don't do it.  It does not give one a right to force their religion on others.

If one does not think there's anything wrong with homosexuals, what's wrong with depicting Mohammed as one?  And why should homosexuals be compared to pedophiles?


Yman Mahrach, a Moroccan Labor Party counsellor from Amsterdam, rectified comments she had made about homosexuals.

Dutch newspaper De Pers reported on Monday that she had written in the labor party newsletter that her party shouldn't work for a moderate Islam since Islam and the Koran are fixed and permanent.  Either you're a Muslim or not.  She also wrote that the homosexual act is forbidden, and that it is a rule in Islam, just as you may not lie.

Mahrach is a spokesperson for youth, emancipation and integration.  She wrote her article in response to an article by Michiel Mulder and Anne Graumans which appeared on the labor party site, calling for art to be judged for its artistic value (Dutch).  The article included a picture of the Sooreh Hera exhibition showing two homosexuals with masks of Mohammed and Ali.

Mahrach wrote that she agrees with the argument that art should only be judged on artistic grounds, but the photo is insulting and does not help the dialog.  The prophet may not be depicted, certainly not as a homosexual or pedophile.  Above all, the labor party has a large following among Muslims.

She wrote there are better ways to make homosexuality debatable: because there is already a lot of discussion.  For example, that you may not use violence against homosexuals.  But the Koran says that homosexuality is forbidden, and so does the Bible and politicians cannot disagree with that.

According to Gay Krant, the labor party had removed her former article and had replaced it with a rectification.  The labor party had also used the opportunity to put up a newer picture of Mahrach, without a headscarf.  (Mahrach had not appeared in photos with a headscarf until she was elected to the city council).  Unlike other articles on the site, there is no possibility to comment.

She now writes on the labor party site (Dutch) that she distances herself from the words that appeared in De Pers.  If the idea exists that she doesn't accept homosexuality, then she wants through this way to once again emphasize that this is not the case.  As a labor party counsellor she works together with the labor party for the emancipation of minorities and thus also for homosexuals.  She thinks it a challenge for a political party like the labor party to ensure that freedom of sexual disposition, freedom of speech and freedom of religion don't exclude or curtail each other, but rather reinforce each other.

Sources: De Pers, Telegraaf , Gay Krant (Dutch)

See also: Amsterdam: Redefining freedom of speech, Netherlands: More labor politicians sign Hizb ut-Tahrir petition, Rotterdam: It's a wonder the rest are ok, Gouda: Bad showing at protest against homo-photos, Norway: 'not just a sin'

Malta: Refugees transferred to US

A group of 15 Somali refugees leave Malta tomorrow to start a new life in the United States.

They form part of a resettlement programme which, US Ambassador Molly Bordonaro said, will see hundreds of recognised refugees in Malta resettled in the United States.

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has so far referred more than 260 people who are in the process of being settled in the US. Some will leave Malta in the next few weeks.

Ambassador Bordonaro, who this morning had a meeting with Foreign Minister Tonio Borg, said this showed the commitment of the United States to help Malta ease the problems of migration .

"It also demonstrates our recognition of the enormous challenges and dangers that many of the migrants have faced."

She said that all refugees are assigned a sponsor agency that provides initial services such as housing, food, clothing as well as referral to medical care, employment services and other support during a transition period lasting up to two years in order to ensure integration and assimilation.

"I have personally met many of the refugees who are part of the programme, and they will make outstanding US citizens," the ambassador said.

Dr Borg thanked the United States saying the resettlement programme was a demonstration of support which Malta was seeking to ease to ease the burden posed by the influx of migrants. He said he did not think such resettlement programmes would encourage more migrants to come to Malta, given the requirements needed for the migrants to qualify for resettlement.

Source: Times of Malta (English)

Afghanistan: German convert calls for Jihad

Two short films have appeared on the Internet [ed: one available here, bottom] featuring the German Islamist Eric B. in which he calls his "brothers" to join the jihad. The authorities have been hunting him for weeks, fearful that he could be preparing a terrorist attack in Kabul. The video messages are fanning those fears.

The news spread like wildfire through the offices of Germany's intelligence agencies. Two new terrorist videos had turned up on the Turkish-language Web site "Time for Martyrdom," which has become an important mouthpiece for Islamist propaganda. And once again there were was a clear connection to Germany.

German terrorist investigators are alarmed at the new videos. After an initial assessment, it was clear that the two short films feature the German Islamist Eric B. from Neuenkirchen in Saarland. For the past few weeks, a publicity campaign in Kabul has focused on finding him and his presumed accomplice Houssain al-M.

The new images are militaristic. The 20-year-old German convert is seen in the first film standing in front of a mountain, with a machine gun thrown over his shoulder and wearing an ammunition belt. Abdul al-Gaffar, B.'s nom de guerre, addresses his audience in barely audible and unusually halting German. First of all he praises the suicide attack carried out by Cüneyt Ciftci, the 28-year-old German-born Turk who blew himself up in the Afghan province of Khost at the beginning of March. B. describes this as a "good deed" which sent many infidels "to hell."

A masked man next to him asks him to send a message to his "brothers in Germany." B., who only converted to Islam in 2007, tells the camera: "When you love God and his messengers, then join the jihad, because that is the way to paradise." Those who aren't able to come and fight are asked to help with money or to support the jihadists at the front with prayers. No Muslim should stand by and watch while the "infidels shame our women in our countries and jail and torment our brothers," he says.

Attack Fears

The Internet messages are a sign for the German investigators that their worst nightmare could come true. Since the beginning of April, fears have grown that B. and his 23-year-old travelling companion Houssain al-M. have been preparing an attack in Afghanistan or Pakistan. The two men have close ties with the so-called Sauerland Cell who are thought to have been planning a terror attack in Germany.

The two men were spotted in the Pakistani city of Peshawar, near the border with Afghanistan, at the beginning of April. A few days later, the German foreign intelligence service, the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), received information that B., at least, was in Kabul.

The investigators called the alarm. The Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) has now launched a search for the two men. Officials in Kabul have issued large wanted posters -- they were even included in the US army newspaper Stars and Stripes two weeks ago. The concerns about a possible attack were raised by an e-mail B. sent to his family from Peshawar. In it, he said he would not be coming back to Germany but instead would carry out his last mission in combat. The BKA had not received any more information about the two men before the video turned up.

Both men have kept the authorities on their toes for months now. According to information obtained by the BKA, the men travelled to Pakistan via Egypt and Iran in September 2007 and apparently completed training in a terror camp of the Islamic Jihad Union. According to the investigators' internal analysis, al-M. is considered the "leader" and "dominates" the young German. Agents suspect that a third, undisclosed man may be involved in addition to B. and al-M., but have yet to reach a definitive conclusion in that regard.

Both short videos were released on Monday evening on the Turkish-language Islamist Web site "Time of Martyrdom." The Islamic Jihad Union has used the online platform several times in the past to publish messages and terror videos. The video also includes the logo of IJU's media department. The organization, now believed to be based in Pakistan, originated with a group of militant Uzbeki Islamists and has close contacts to al-Qaida, the Taliban and Pakistani jihad groups.

German officials were first alerted about IJU at the end of 2006, when US intelligence agencies warned German security officials that German Islamists in Pakistan had established contact with members of the group. The tip-off led to spectacular arrests in summer 2007 of a terror cell in the Sauerland region of western Germany, where suspects Fritz Gelowicz, Adem Y. and Daniel S. had begun to build explosives for one or more bombs in a holiday apartment.

Pictures at Every EU Entry Point

The IJU showed one more time that it has access to recruits in Germany. In mid-March the group released a statement saying that Cüneyt Cifcti, who was also raised in Germany, had carried out a suicide bombing in the name of the IJU in Afghanistan. Since then the organization has released almost a half-dozen videos showing the attack and Ciftci's final hours. Yesterday the group also released new material about the man, as a sort of testament. Experts are studying the clip now.

Two American soldiers and two Afghans were killed by the Bavarian Islamist on March 3. His guilt is now beyond doubt.

Security officials think of Ciftci as a potential role model for Eric B. and his accomplice from the Saarland. The German has recently appeared without a mask in an IJU propaganda video, something many analysts read as a bad sign. They believe it means either that he's been selected as the next bomber in Afghanistan (or even Germany), or that he's already waiting on a definite mission. Like Ciftci, who was evidently filmed over and over while he trained, Eric B. may be seen as a potential new role model for German converts.

Unlike Ciftci, in any case, Eric B. has not yet announced an attack in any video.

The video has spread worries that it's now just a matter of time before the two German Islamists mount an attack. Their pictures now hang at every European Union entry point, and in all German airports. Officials are also taking steps to try to confiscate al-M.'s German passport. But no one believes these measures will keep any of them from trying to carry out their plan.

Source: Spiegel (English)

See also: Germany: German Islamists planning attacks in Afghanistan, Germany: German Nationals Get Training in Terror Camps

Netherlands: Cabinet wants to ban burkas in government, schools and public transportation

A year and a half ago they were speaking of 50 women wearing a burka.


The cabinet and parliament support a more pragmatic approach: banning the burka in places where that's needed. But the parliamentary debate on the topic had become very emotional, with five minister being called up.

According to researchers not more than 100 women wear a face covering veil in the Netherlands, though some estimate it to be up to 150.

The cabinet can see that the burka brings about a feeling of discomfort and insecurity among part of the population and therefore had suggested to ban it in specific sectors. For example: government employees and schools. The cabinet is still discussing the topic with transportation companies.

A parliamentary majority supports the decision not to generally ban the burka, as it would conflict with the constitutional right of freedom of religion.

ChristianUnion parliament member Anker: Women choose a burka or niqab mostly out of religious motives. It might affect their deepest religious feelings if they may not walk out in the street.

Only the PVV and VVD voted against the pragmatic approach. The VVD (People's Party for Freedom and Democracy) had proposed that all clothing covering the face be banned, burka as well as helmets, for preserving public order and security. The PVV (Party for Freedom) suggested banning the burka alone.

PVV parliament member Fritsma thinks the burka is a "symbol of women's oppression". "Women who cover their faces reject our western values. Besides the burka hinders integration and emancipation. And above all, there is a security risk. Burka wearers are unrecognizable.

Minister Ter Horst (Internal Affairs) defended the 'more sensible line' of the government: We think the burka is undesirable. But it is important to realize that a hundred burkas don't burden Dutch society.

Minister Vogelaar (Integration) wants to keep the issue in proportions: There are a hundred women with a burka in the Netherlands. A hundred women on five ministers, we therefore are each in charge of twenty women. She wants to study why women wear a burka, and expects results in the second half of the year. According to Vogelaar a burka hinders open communication, can give the other an uneasy feeling and can also express women's oppression.
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Mininster Ab Klink (Health) said that before making a decision he will study whether burkas are a problem in the health sector. He says he does not want to make laws about problems that do not exist and that unlike teachers, a person can refuse a doctor.

Sources: Reformatisch Dagblad , Telegraaf (Dutch)

See also: Netherlands: What about the burqa ban?

Bologna: Mosque project scrapped

A controversial project to build a mosque in the northern Italian city of Bologna has been scrapped - officially because local Muslims did not agree to two key conditions.

"As far as we are concerned, the project no longer exists," said the city's councillor for urban planning," Virginio Merola, was quoted as saying in a report on the Italian daily Corriere della Sera on Tuesday.

Merola said the city's Islamic Cultural Centre's failure to reply to a recent letter laying down two essential conditions for the mosque to go ahead, showed it "disagreed" with the city council over the project.

Bologna's Islamic Cultural Centre says it remains committed to building a mosque, despite intense local opposition to the project. The centre's number two, Daniele Parracino was quoted as saying it would be asking for a swift meeting with the city council.

The city council's letter asked for a foundation to be set up that would ensure transparency over funding for the planned mosque.

The letter also asked Bologna's Muslim community to distance itself from Italy's largest Muslim group - the Union of Islamic Communities of Italy (UCOII).

The government last week excluded UCOII from its newly formed Italian Muslim Federation after the group refused to sign a 'charter of values' for Italy's religious minorities last year.

Bologna city council's move came as conservative candidate Gianni Alemanno won Rome's mayoral election on Monday, trouncing centre-left candidate Francesco Rutelli in a run-off.

Alemanno belongs to the conservative People of Freedom party (PDL) of prime minister elect Silvio Berlusconi, which scored a decisive win in Italy's general election earlier this this month.

The PDL relies on the support of the anti-immigrant Northern League party which performed strongly in the 13-14 April election, doubling its share of the vote compared with the 2006 election won by the centre-left.

Mayoral elections are due in Bologna next year and the ruling centre-left Democrat Party's decision to scrap the mosque project is being seen as an attempt to remove an electoral weapon from right-wing political forces, whose supporters oppose the plan to build the mosque in the city.

Bologna city council last September put on hold an earlier decision to set aside land for the mosque's construction in the northeast San Donato district of Bologna.

Bologna's centre-left mayor Sergio Cofferati (photo) said at that time the city council had decided to chose "a different participatory process involving the district."

"I believe it would be coherent to formulate the decision at the end of the participatory process. It remains , however, our intention to build the mosque in San Donato," Cofferati was quoted as saying.

Merola also backed Cofferati's remarks last September, arguing that "freedom of religion is a right."

A citizens' group was formed in Bologna last May to gather signatures for a referendum against the planned San Donato mosque - a project first conceived several years ago.

Source: AKI (English)

See also: Italy: Protests against mosque plans in Siena, Italy: Far-right candidate of Moroccan origin says there are too many mosques

France: Prisons Filled With Muslims

Samia El Alaoui Talibi walks her beat in a cream-colored head scarf and an ink-black robe with sunset-orange piping, an outfit she picked up at a yard sale.

After passing a bulletproof window, El Alaoui Talibi trudges through half a dozen heavy, locked doors to reach the Muslim faithful to whom she ministers in the women's cellblock of the Lille-Sequedin Detention Center in far northern France.

It took her years to earn this access, said El Alaoui Talibi, one of only four Muslim holy women allowed to work in French prisons. "Everyone has the same prejudices and negative image of Muslims and Islam," said Moroccan-born El Alaoui Talibi, 47, the mother of seven children. "When some guards see you, they see an Arab; they see you the same as if you were a prisoner."

This prison is majority Muslim -- as is virtually every house of incarceration in France. About 60 to 70 percent of all inmates in the country's prison system are Muslim, according to Muslim leaders, sociologists and researchers, though Muslims make up only about 12 percent of the country's population.

On a continent where immigrants and the children of immigrants are disproportionately represented in almost every prison system, the French figures are the most marked, according to researchers, criminologists and Muslim leaders.

"The high percentage of Muslims in prisons is a direct consequence of the failure of the integration of minorities in France," said Moussa Khedimellah, a sociologist who has spent several years conducting research on Muslims in the French penal system.

In Britain, 11 percent of prisoners are Muslim in contrast to about 3 percent of all inhabitants, according to the Justice Ministry. Research by the Open Society Institute, an advocacy organization, shows that in the Netherlands 20 percent of adult prisoners and 26 percent of all juvenile offenders are Muslim; the country is about 5.5 percent Muslim. In Belgium, Muslims from Morocco and Turkey make up at least 16 percent of the prison population, compared with 2 percent of the general populace, the research found.

Sociologists and Muslim leaders say the French prison system reflects the deep social and ethnic divides roiling France and its European neighbors as immigrants and a new generation of their children alter the demographic and cultural landscape of the continent.

French prison officials blame the high numbers on the poverty of people who have moved here from North African and other Islamic countries in recent decades. "Many immigrants arrive in France in difficult financial situations, which make delinquency more frequent," said Jeanne Sautière, director of integration and religious groups for the French prison system. "The most important thing is to say there is no correlation between Islam and delinquency."

But Muslim leaders, sociologists and human rights activists argue that more than in most other European countries, government social policies in France have served to isolate Muslims in impoverished suburbs that have high unemployment, inferior schools and substandard housing. This has helped create a generation of French-born children with little hope of social advancement and even less respect for French authority.

"The question of discrimination and justice is one of the key political questions of our society, and still, it is not given much importance," said Sebastian Roche, who has studied judicial discrimination as research director for the French National Center for Scientific Research. "We can't blame a state if its companies discriminate; however, we can blame the state if its justice system and its police discriminate."

As a matter of policy, the French government does not collect data on race, religion or ethnicity on its citizens in any capacity, making it difficult to obtain precise figures on the makeup of prison populations. But demographers, sociologists and Muslim leaders have compiled generally accepted estimates showing Muslim inmate populations nationwide averaging between 60 and 70 percent.

The figures fluctuate from region to region: They are higher in areas with large concentrations of Muslims, including suburban Paris, Marseille in the south and Lille in the north.

Inside the prisons, El Alaoui Talibi and her husband, Hassan -- a rare husband-wife Islamic clerical team -- are struggling to win for Muslim prisoners the same religious rights accorded to their minority-Christian counterparts. Hassan is an imam. Samia has received religious training and can counsel the faithful, but under Islamic practices she cannot become an imam. The prison system has only 100 Muslim clerics for the country's 200 prisons, compared with about 480 Catholic, 250 Protestant and 50 Jewish chaplains, even though Muslim inmates vastly outnumber prisoners of all other religions. "It is true that we haven't attained full equality among religions in prisons yet," said Sautière, the national prison official. "It is a matter of time."

In recent years, the French government's primary concern with its Muslim inmate population has been political. French national security officials warned prison authorities in 2005 that they should work to prevent radical Muslims from inciting fellow prisoners. A year later, the French Senate approved a bill giving the country's national intelligence agency broad authority to monitor Muslim inmates as part of counterterrorism efforts.

Prison authorities began allowing carefully vetted moderate imams into prisons in hopes of "balancing the radical elements," said Aurélie Leclerq, 33, director of the Lille-Sequedin Detention Center.

Hassan El Alaoui Talibi, 52, who moved to France from Morocco as a student, is the national head of France's prison imams and typical of the kind of moderate Muslim figure the French government seeks for its prison system.

El Alaoui Talibi delivers his Friday sermons with carefully chosen words, he says. He avoids politics and other subjects that might seem remotely inflammatory. He sticks to counseling convicted drug dealers, murderers and illegal immigrants in matters of faith and respect.

But not all the Muslims at Lille-Sequedin share those moderate views. Last year a disgruntled inmate blared a taped religious sermon into the prison courtyard. Prison officials deemed its message inflammatory and sent the prisoner to solitary confinement.

El Alaoui Talibi described years of struggle to win even modest concessions from prison directors. He recalled the first prison visit he made, a decade ago: He was forced to wait an hour and a half to meet with inmates. "If I hadn't been patient, I would have left," said the soft-spoken former high school teacher who became a prison imam after seeing so many of his students get in trouble with the law for petty offenses and end up hard-core criminals after prison stints.

Today, working in France's newest prison -- the sprawling, three-year-old Lille-Sequedin center -- the El Alaoui Talibis say they are more accepted than some Muslim colleagues at other prisons. Prison officials rejected requests by The Washington Post to visit some of the system's older, more troubled prisons.

On a recent Friday, Hassan El Alaoui Talibi, a man with soulful eyes and a beard with the first hints of gray, made his way with a reporter through the men's wings, collecting prisoners' notes from mailboxes shared with Catholic and Protestant chaplains. At one point, several new inmates returning from sports practice surrounded him, requesting personal visits. He scribbled their names and cell numbers on a scrap of paper.

Many of the Muslim inmates in this prison just west of Lille are the children and grandchildren of immigrants who were brought to the northern region decades ago to work in its coal mines.

El Alaoui Talibi moved on to a small room overlooking a tiny garden courtyard and tugged at prayer mats stacked in a closet beside a rough-hewn wooden cross. Every other Friday, he transforms the room into a mosque for some of the male Muslim faithful of the prison. One of his most frequent sermon topics is food.

"He tells us not to throw away prison food just because it isn't halal," or compliant with Islamic dietary law, said a 33-year-old former civil servant, a man of Algerian descent who attends the twice-monthly prayer meetings. French prison rules prohibit journalists from identifying inmates by name or disclosing their crimes.

The refusal of prison officials to provide halal food, particularly meat products, is one of the biggest complaints of Muslim inmates across France and has occasionally led to cellblock protests.

For many years, prisons have allowed Muslim prisoners to forgo pork products -- and statistics tracking prisoners who refuse pork is an accurate barometer of the Muslim population in a prison, according to researchers. But cutting out pork is a long way from the full halal regimen. Only recently, did the prisons stop using pork grease to cook vegetables and other dishes.

"If you want to comply with your religion, you don't have a choice -- you have to become vegetarian," said the convicted civil servant, a compact man who works in the prison library. "We have access to a prison store with two halal products: halal sausage and a can of ravioli."

Prison officials say it is too expensive to provide halal meals. "We'd like to buy fresh meat, but we can't," said Leclerq, whose prison office is decorated with plush bears.

Muslim inmates said they sense other religious snubs. Christians are allowed packages containing gifts and special treats from their families at Christmas, but Muslims do not receive the same privilege for the Ramadan holy days. "We're careful not to call them Christmas packages because Muslims would ask for Ramadan packages," Leclerq said. "We call them end-of-the-year packages. We can't use a religious term or some people get tense."

Hassan El Alaoui Talibi said the French prison system has made progress since he began his ministry a decade ago. Last year the government set guidelines for all prisons to follow on religious practices, rather than allowing directors to arbitrarily set their own rules.

Prison imams met with Justice Minister Rachida Dati last month with a list of continuing requests, including more imams and training for prison guards to help them better understand religious differences.

A 31-year-old woman of Algerian descent with a youthful face and black, wavy hair tied carelessly in a ponytail welcomed Samia El Alaoui Talibi on a recent morning with double kisses on the cheeks.

"Arriving here was a nightmare," said the woman, one of about 150 female inmates. "I was crying, I couldn't believe I was here.

"Then I saw this woman wearing a head scarf," she said, smiling toward Samia. "I could tell she was here to help me. I call her my angel."

Source: Washington Post (English)

See also: Muslim population in European prisons, Denmark: Moderate imams answer to prison radicalization

Algeria: Illegal immigrants to Europe are 'martyrs'

Is there no middle ground between suicide and martyrdom?

Algerian immigrants who drown in the Mediterranean Sea on their way to Europe should be considered 'martyrs', according to a prominent imam.

According to the local daily, Ennahar, Sheikh Shamsedin Bourubi issued a fatwa, or religious edict, on Monday saying that the Muslim faithful should pray for their souls.

"The immigrants who leave Algeria by sea in a bid to reach Europe and die by drowning in the Mediterannean are 'martyrs' and are not committing suicide," he said.

"So it is legal to conduct funeral prayers for their souls."

The Bourubi's fatwa appears to contradict a preceding fatwa issued by the Algerian ministry of religious affairs.

According to the government body, immigrants who leave the country illegally and die in the ocean are committing suicide and should not be given prayers that are in violation of Islamic doctrine.

The ministry had therefore banned illegal immigration, saying it was against Islam.

But Bourubi disagreed with the government's stance.

"The illegal immigrants that leave by sea face enormous risks and pay enormous sums of money to improve their living conditions," he said.

According to the Algerian theologian, it is important to understand the social motivation that pushes young people to immigrate.

Source: AKI (English)

Italy: Wariness of Muslims

As a new centre-right government that has vowed to be tougher on immigration prepares to take office, a new study on Tuesday showed that most Italians have negative views about having immigrants from Muslim countries.

According to the study carried out by the Makno research organisation, and commissioned by the interior ministry, 55.3 percent of those asked said immigration from Islamic countries was more problematic than that from other, Christian, countries.

Only 39.7 percent said Muslims should be allowed to practice their religion and build mosques unconditionally.

Nearly 10 percent were firmly against allowing Muslim religious practices or mosques and the rest posed various conditions, such as reciprocity for Christians in Islamic countries to practice their religion.

On the Islamic side, nearly 40 percent of Muslim immigrants said they found it difficult to respect their religious traditions in Italy while 30.2 percent feared they would lose their culture.

Italy, a predominantly Catholic country which once sent millions of immigrants to the world, is still grappling with how it should integrate immigrants of different cultures, languages and religions.

More than 17 percent in survey feared terrorist attacks, nearly 25 percent said they believed Muslims were critical of Italians and their culture and 28.2 percent said Muslims were intolerant of Catholicism.

Various parties in the coalition of prime minister-elect Silvio Berlusconi, who is expected to form his government by next week, have vowed to crack down on immigrants.

Umberto Bossi, the firebrand leader of the anti-immigrant Northern League, took a surprising 8 percent in this month's national elections and is expected to get several cabinet posts, perhaps including the interior ministry.

One League member, Roberto Calderoli, outraged Muslims with past antics such as wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammad.

Renato Schifani, a member of Berlusconi's Forza Italia party, said minutes after he was elected Senate speaker on Tuesday that among Italy's pressing priorities was to promote only "healthy and regular immigration" and to defend Italy's "Christian roots".

According to official figures, there are more than a million Muslim immigrants in Italy but aid groups say the figure is higher.

The attitude of non-Islamic immigrants in Italy, most of them Christians, was just as critical towards Muslims or in some cases even more so than that of Italians.

Source: Reuters (English)

Copenhagen: City sponsored Eid festival

The Copenhagen integration committee agreed to finance the Eid-festival at the city hall square with 100,000 kroner.

Ramadan will end October 1st and will be celebrated with a large open festival at city hall square, together with music, dance, workshops, food and drink. The event will stress that Copenhagen is a multicultural city and many ethnic associations will take part in it.

Sara Bech Jakobsen, head of the World Culture Center (VerdensKulturCentret) says it's important to stress that the event is a festival for both Muslims and non-Muslims. She wants ethnic Dane's to increase their knowledge about the Eid festival.

Politicians and the Jakob Hougaard also stipulated that the Eid festival will be a festival for all Copenhagen residents.

The initiators hope that the party will give Muslim Copenhagen residents a possibility to show their cultural heritage, and give other Copenhagen residents insight and access to a new festival and celebration day.

The festival will also indicate recognition and respect for Eid's significance for Muslim Copenhagen residents.

Several thousands are expects to visit the city hall plaza during the day.

The integration ministry will support the initiative with 100,000 kroner.

Source: Berlingske (Danish)

See also: Copenhagen: Islam to fill the city

Verviers: Hamas headquarters

The NEFA Foundation recently published a new report: The Muslim Brotherhood in Belgium (PDF)

According to this report Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood have a base in Verviers, through the Al Aqsa charity organization. This organization had been banned in both Germany and the Netherlands on suspicion of supporting Hamas.

Michel Privot, a convert to Islam living in Verviers, is named in the report as one of the Muslim Brotherhood heads in Verviers. He denies the accusations and warns for the dangers of such reports.

Privot was also mentioned by former American Ambassador to Belgium, Tom C. Korologos, as a participant in the Belgian-US Muslim dialogue, who said the conference will help in countering 'extremism fomented by alienation'. The Forum of European Muslim Youth and Student Organizations, an organization claimed to be controlled by the Muslim Brotherhood, is one of the sponsors of this initiative.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

See also: Two reports on radicalization, Belgium: Terror sweep causes complaints, Denmark: Force 17 Office, Copenhagen, Muslim Communities Participating in Society: A Belgian-US Dialogue

Europe's debt to Islam given a skeptical look

When Sylvain Gouguenheim looks at today's historical vision of the history of the West and Islam, he sees a notion, accepted as fact, that the Muslim world was at the source of the Christian Europe's reawakening from the Middle Ages.

He sees a portrayal of an enlightened Islam, transmitting westward the knowledge of the ancient Greeks through Arab translators and opening the path in Europe to mathematics, medicine, astronomy and philosophy - a gift the West regards with insufficient esteem.

"This thesis has basically nothing scandalous about it, if it were true," Gouguenheim writes. "In spite of the appearances, it has more to do with taking ideological sides than scientific analysis."

For a controversy, here's a real one. Gouguenheim, a professor of medieval history at a prestigious university, l'École Normale Supérieure de Lyon, is saying "Whoa!" to the idea there was an Islamic bridge of civilization to the West. Supposedly, it "would be at the origin of the Middle Ages' cultural and scientific reawakening, and (eventually) the Renaissance."

In a new book, he is basically canceling, or largely writing off, a debt to "the Arabo-Muslim world" dating from the year 750 - a concept built up by other historians over the past 50 years - that has Europe owing Islam for an essential part of its identity.

"Aristote au Mont Saint-Michel" (Editions du Seuil), while not contending there is an ongoing clash of civilizations, makes the case that Islam was impermeable to much of Greek thought, that the Arab world's initial translations of it to Latin were not so much the work of "Islam" but of Aramaeans and Christian Arabs, and that a wave of translations of Aristotle began at the Mont Saint-Michel monastery in France 50 years before Arab versions of the same texts appeared in Moorish Spain.

When I talked to Gouguenheim about his book a couple of weeks ago, he said he had no interest in polemics, just some concern that his research could be misused by extremists.

At the same time, he acknowledged that his subject was intensely political. Gouguenheim said it was in light of a 2002 recommendation from the European Union that schoolbooks give a more positive rendering of Islam's part in European heritage "that an attempt at a clarification becomes necessary." Reading Gouguenheim without a background in the history of the Byzantine Empire or the Abassid caliphate is a bit of a challenge. It justifies distance and reserving judgment.

But Le Figaro and Le Monde, in considering the book in prominent reviews, drank its content in a single gulp. No suspended endorsements or anything that read like a caution.

"Congratulations," Le Figaro wrote. "Mr. Gouguenheim wasn't afraid to remind us that there was a medieval Christian crucible, a fruit of the heritage of Athens and Jerusalem," while "Islam hardly proposed its knowledge to Westerners."

Le Monde was even more receptive: "All in all, and contrary to what's been repeated in a crescendo since the 1960s, European culture in its history and development shouldn't be owing a whole lot to Islam. In any case, nothing essential.

"Precise and well-argued, this book, which sets history straight, is also a strongly courageous one."

But is it right?

Gouguenheim attacks the "thesis of the West's debt" as advanced by the historians Edward Said, Alain de Libera and Mohammed Arkoun. He says it replaces formerly dominant notions of cultural superiority advanced by Western orientalists, with "a new ethnocentrism, oriental this time" that sets off an "enlightened, refined and spiritual Islam" against a brutal West.

Nuggets: Gouguenheim argues that Bayt al-Hikma, or the House of Wisdom, said to be created by the Abassids in the ninth century, was limited to the study of Koranic science, rather than philosophy, physics or mathematics, as understood in the speculative context of Greek thought.

He says that Aristotle's works on ethics, metaphysics and politics were disregarded or unknown to the Muslim world, being basically incompatible with the Koran. Europe, he said, "became aware of the Greek texts because it went hunting for them, not because they were brought to them."

Gouguenheim calls the Mont Saint-Michel monastery, where the texts were translated into Latin, "the missing link in the passage from the Greek to the Latin world of Aristotelian philosophy." Outside of a few thinkers - he lists Al-Farabi, Avicenne, Abu Ma'shar and Averroes - Gougenheim considers that the "masters of the Middle East" retained from Greek teaching only what didn't contradict Koranic doctrine.

Published less than a month ago, the book is just beginning to encounter learned criticism. Sarcastically, Gabriel Martinez-Gros, a professor of medieval history, and Julien Loiseau, a lecturer, described Gouguenheim as "re-establishing the real hierarchy of civilizations."

They said that he disregarded the mathematics and astronomy produced by the Islamic world between the 9th and 13th centuries and painted the period's Islamic civilization exactly what it was not: obscurantist, legalistic, fatalistic and fanatic.

Indeed, Gouguenheim's thesis, they suggest, has "intellectual associations that are questionable at their very heart" - which I take to mean nastily right-wing.

If you read Gougenheim's appendix, he's preemptively headed off that kind of accusation. He offers his book as an antidote to an approach to Islam's medieval relations to the West exemplified by the late Sigrid Hunke, a German writer, described as a former Nazi and friend of Heinrich Himmler.

Hunke describes a pioneering, civilizing Islam to which "the West owes everything." Gouguenheim replies that, in deforming reality, her work from the 1960s continues as a reference point that unfortunately still "shapes the spirit of the moment."

He says he means to rectify that.

His book is interesting and bold. At the very least, it is kindling for arguments on a touchy subject where most people don't have more than inklings and instincts to sort out even shards of truth from angry and conflictual expertise.

Source: IHT (English)

See also: If the Muslims would have won, Book Review: The Muslim Discovery of Europe

Denmark: Can Islamic law be implemented in Denmark?

The following conference has not been officially announced yet, but according to the Uriasposten blog it is being planned by the Judicial Institute at Aarhus University for June 4th.

Sharia law and Danish law: Can Islamic law be implemented in Denmark?

Jørgen Bæk Simonsen: Advantages and possibilities for Sharia in Danish law

Helmut Schledermann: Tolerance without law conflict. In defence of equality before the law.

Maja Holmlund: Problems with sharia in marriage law and children law.

Jens Jørgen Viuff: Problems with sharia in inheritance law.

Source: Uriasposten (Danish)

See also: Netherlands: 'Sharia and European law are based on the same principles', Tilburg: Sharia in Europe symposium

Denmark: Polygamy unacceptable

An Iraqi interpreter currently in Denmark with two wives will have to divorce one.

Family Services has decided that a man is not allowed to have two wives in Denmark, even if has gotten residence permits for them. The interpreter has until May 26th to decide if he will turn ot the courts or divorce one of his wives.

He can divorce his first wife immediately, since she can claim bigamy as grounds for divorce. If he chooses to divorce his second wife, it will require him to separate from her first.

The interpreter currently lives with his two wives in two parallel households.

In March Equality Minister Karen Jespersen announced that polygamy is not accepted in any form in Denmark.

Jespersen told Radioavisen that she was surprised the Iraqi interpreter hadn't understood that bigamy was strictly forbidden in Denmark and had been under the impression that he would be allowed to stay married to his two wives.

She was also upset at radical imam Abdul Wahid Pedersen, who said he backs polygamy, and said that it was important to make sure that such attitudes aren't allowed to spread.

Source: Nyhedsavisen (Danish)

See also: Denmark: Asylum seeker with two wives, Denmark: Debate about polygamy, Denmark: Government to study polygamy

Norway: Beheading as a way of working out frustrations

When was the last time you thought of beheading somebody?

A 29 year old Norwegian-Pakistani is currently on trial for taking part in a terror plot in Norway. He is accused of planning to behead the Israeli ambassador to Norway, Miryam Shomrat.

"It was just frustration," he says. "I had just heard an interview with the ambassador on the radio, where she defended the war against Palestine and that women and children must suffer. If one looks back on the interview, I think many would be irritated."

"I don't think Bhatti either thought any more of this, we never spoke more about it."

He says that many times he's had strange thoughts, and even if it sounds serious, he was just speaking as a way of expressing his frustrations. He says when his neighbor's dog barked every morning at 6am, he told his wife one night that it should be shot. Should he also be arrested for planning to shoot the dog?

There was one conversation where he spoke of beheading the Israeli ambassador and he thinks that was that.

Source: Dagbladet (Norwegian)

See also: Norway: Terrorism, Norway: Terrorism plans

France: Muslim countries vying for influence on local Muslims

A number of Arab and Muslim countries are engaged in all-out power struggles to control the French Council of the Muslim Faith (CFCM), to elect a new complete lineup in June.

"The war of consulates has become quite overt," Lhaj Thami Breze, Chairman of the Union of Islamic Organizations in France (UOIF), told

"All sorts of tactics are being used: money, temptation and even threats."

The CFCM, France's official Muslim representative body, will hold its third general elections on June 8.

Some 5,232 mosque representatives will cast their ballot to elect a 65-member general assembly which will elect in turns a 17-member board.

The council's board will then elect a president.

The run-up to the elections has seen fierce battles to gain influence inside the CFCM, mainly between Algerian and Moroccan-affiliated groups.

Sources from Paris Grand Mosque, which is close to Algeria, accuse Moroccan authorities of trying to capture control of the representative body.

"The Moroccan consulate has allocated €50,000 for each of the 25 areas which have representatives in the CFCM," he said.

The CFCM has been headed by Dalil Boubakeur, the Paris Grand Mosque rector, since its establishment in 2003 with the support of then Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sources say the government is aware of the Algerian-Moroccan power struggle and the Interior Ministry has recently sent a delegation to both countries to bring it to an end.

Turkey and some Gulf countries are also engaged in the same race to secure a foothold in the CFCM, according to well-placed sources within the minority.

France is home to a sizable Muslim minority of nearly seven million, mostly from North African and Turkish backgrounds.

Leadership Race

The power struggle has intensified in recent weeks.

Officials from the Grand Paris Mosque have leaked reports of a possible boycott of the upcoming CFCM polls.

"It is our way to protest the current electoral process," Abdullah Zekry told IOL.

He said that a number of mosques have recently expanded their areas to claim more representation in the CFCM.

Rivals, however, described the boycott threat as an attempt to pressure Muslims into reelecting Boubakeur for a third term.

"This is their way of forcing their rules on the election process," Haydar Demiryurek, head of the Steering Committee of France's Turks and deputy head of CFCM, told IOL.

He argued that Boubakeur, who has expressed a desire to run for a third three-year term, no longer enjoys the support of the CFCM members.

Demiryurek has already announced his candidacy to succeed Boubakeur.

Foad Alawi, deputy head of the UOIF, is also vying for the same prestigious post.

Well-placed sources argue that Demiryurek is not very popular among the CFCM incumbent board members, which has only three members of Turkish background.

Boubakeur is reportedly favored by both French and Algerian governments.

Source: Islam Online (English)

The Cultural Jihad: An Anatomy of Surrender

Bruce Bawer reviews how the media, entertainers, academics and politicians encourage the spread of cultural Jihad, the war against liberal values. I think, though, that before discussing how much the West is willing to fight for its freedoms, the question should be whether they even know what those freedoms are.

Islam divides the world into two parts. The part governed by sharia, or Islamic law, is called the Dar al-Islam, or House of Submission. Everything else is the Dar al-Harb, or House of War, so called because it will take war—holy war, jihad—to bring it into the House of Submission. Over the centuries, this jihad has taken a variety of forms. Two centuries ago, for instance, Muslim pirates from North Africa captured ships and enslaved their crews, leading the U.S. to fight the Barbary Wars of 1801–05 and 1815. In recent decades, the jihadists' weapon of choice has usually been the terrorist's bomb; the use of planes as missiles on 9/11 was a variant of this method.

What has not been widely recognized is that the Ayatollah Khomeini's 1989 fatwa against Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie introduced a new kind of jihad. Instead of assaulting Western ships or buildings, Kho­meini took aim at a fundamental Western freedom: freedom of speech. In recent years, other Islamists have joined this crusade, seeking to undermine Western societies' basic liberties and extend sharia within those societies.

The cultural jihadists have enjoyed disturbing success. Two events in particular—the 2004 assassination in Amsterdam of Theo van Gogh in retaliation for his film about Islam's oppression of women, and the global wave of riots, murders, and vandalism that followed a Danish newspaper's 2005 publication of cartoons satirizing Mohammed—have had a massive ripple effect throughout the West. Motivated variously, and doubtless sometimes simultaneously, by fear, misguided sympathy, and multicultural ideology—which teaches us to belittle our freedoms and to genuflect to non-Western cultures, however repressive—people at every level of Western society, but especially elites, have allowed concerns about what fundamentalist Muslims will feel, think, or do to influence their actions and expressions. These Westerners have begun, in other words, to internalize the strictures of sharia, and thus implicitly to accept the deferential status of dhimmis—infidels living in Muslim societies.

Call it a cultural surrender. The House of War is slowly—or not so slowly, in Europe's case—being absorbed into the House of Submission.


Enough. We need to recognize that the cultural jihadists hate our freedoms because those freedoms defy sharia, which they're determined to impose on us. So far, they have been far less successful at rolling back freedom of speech and other liberties in the U.S. than in Europe, thanks in no small part to the First Amendment. Yet America is proving increasingly susceptible to their pressures.

The key question for Westerners is: Do we love our freedoms as much as they hate them? Many free people, alas, have become so accustomed to freedom, and to the comfortable position of not having to stand up for it, that they're incapable of defending it when it's imperiled—or even, in many cases, of recognizing that it is imperiled. As for Muslims living in the West, surveys suggest that many of them, though not actively involved in jihad, are prepared to look on passively—and some, approvingly—while their coreligionists drag the Western world into the House of Submission.

But we certainly can't expect them to take a stand for liberty if we don't stand up for it ourselves.

Source: City Journal (English)

See also: Book Review: While Europe Slept, Opinion: Losing the war (of ideas)

Netherlands: Islamization crept in a long time ago

Talking about the islamization of society is apparently taboo in the Netherlands, according to Muslima Nahed Selim. Why is that? "I think many Dutch people do not fully understand the term." She hopes that many more warnings will follow Geert Wilders' film.

In a broadcast by the Dutch Islamic Broadcasting organization (NIO) on March 30th we saw reactions to 'Fitna' from Egypt, one of them from a preacher. Apart from the usual talk about respect and causing offence he was also outraged about the title of the film. He wondered whether the 'director' realized what fitna meant.

The words of the director in Dutch newspaper Het Parool clearly showed that Geert Wilders does indeed know. Every Muslim knows the Arabic word fitna, says the leader of the Party fort Freedom (PVV). "It refers to situations in which the faith of the Muslims is put to the test. Everything that tests their faith is fitna: uncovered women, alcohol, non-Muslims, resistance against the authority of Islam. I use the term as a mirror image: to me the pernicious Islam is fitna." Wilders was very pleased with his find "I was set on using a word from the Koran."

The title is well-chosen for more than one reason. Fitna is a fascinating word. On the individual level it means 'temptation' and 'testing of the faith'. Remarkably the temptation that emanates from women is also indicated as fitna. In addition the term is associated with unrest, civil war, and chaos. In classical-Islamic history there have been three great fitnas.

Between 656 and 661, following the assassination of the third caliph Uthman Ibn Affan, a power struggle erupted in which Muslims for the first time took up arms against each other. The second fitna occurred between 683 and 685. This time it was also a political battle between the dynasties of the Ummayads and the Abbassids for control of the Islamic empire. The third fitna refers to the battle between army commanders and rulers during the final period of Islamic rule in Cordoba.

The fear of the concept of fitna – with its associations ranging from chaos and civil war to temptation and testing – is enormous among Muslim scholars. Almost like the spectre of World War II is for Europeans.

The Egyptian preacher, although a Christian, concluded his statement in the NIO broadcast with a spontaneous prayer to God to protect our countries and our civilizations from all types of fitnas and from their instigators.

It is debatable whether Wilders was aware of this historical dimension of the title of his film. Gilles Kepel certainly was. This French Islamic studies scholar, political scientist and authority on radical Islam was the first to use the term in his book 'Fitna: guerre au Coeur de l'Islam' (The War for Muslim Minds, 2004). In this fascinating book he describes the interaction between jihad and fitna. Today, very few people have not heard of jihad. Fitna is an equally important concept for Muslims, but it is almost unknown among non-Muslims. Wilders has changed that. Thanks to his film millions of people around the world are introduced to this fascinating concept.

The leader of the Party for Freedom (PVV) intended this film as a final warning to the Netherlands against Islamization. Why the final warning? I hope there will be many more. Every country that has seen total islamization has gone downhill. The more islamization, the more unrest, material and cultural poverty, civil conflicts, bloodshed and other woes. Look at Pakistan, Iran, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia. The society we have now is much better; for everyone.

Talking about the islamization of society is apparently taboo in the Netherlands. I think many Dutch people do not fully understand the term. Islamization does not only mean the increase of the Muslim population, or the military conquest of the country by Muslims, or the founding of an Islamic state. Islamization is a process in which religion will insidiously start dominating all aspects of life.

Turkey is an Islamic country, the majority of the people are Muslims, but the country is not completely islamized. It has a substantial group of seculars, who are completely different in the way they live and think. It is a group that continues to refuse to bow to the Muslim majority. And it is a powerful group, as they are represented in the army and the elite. It remains to be seen how long the seculars will be able to hold onto that power.

A few months ago 140,000 demonstrators took to the streets in Turkey to protest. They id not want the ban on wearing headscarves at universities to be lifted. They feared the social pressure on all women to start wearing the scarf, when the ban was a support and great excuse for many women and their families. They could always say that the state did not allow it. They also feared that lifting the ban would be an important element in the process of islamization.

The seculars in Turkey understand much better than our government what islamization entails. Islamization is also the process, no matter how slow, that gradually leads to the islamization of thought. The islamization of thought will mean the end of all creativity, originality and creative power, for creation is a divine quality patented by Allah. He will not tolerate competition from man. Islamization is the process by which Islamic values eventually gain the upper hand over all other value systems, in all aspects of life.

This process has been going on in the Western world for quite a while. And it is demonstrated almost daily in a series of incidents.

For example when a Muslima pharmacist refuses to sell the morning-after pill or condoms, when a Muslim doctor refuses to treat aids patients or perform abortions, when medical students refuse to carry out those parts of their curriculum they claim are in conflict with their faith, when Muslim taxi drivers refuse to transport blind customers and their guide dogs because their faith tells them dogs are unclean, when it becomes almost impossible to criticize Islam or Muslims without being threatened; when youth welfare agencies have to enlist the help of imams to be able to do their job among Moroccan families, when municipal officers refuse to shake hands with women, when female teachers and other civil servants represent Islam during their work by wearing their headscarves when they should be representing the state; when Fortis bank scraps the little piggy bank they used to give to children as a present because it is an unclean animal to Muslims; when museums take down photographs and refuse paintings because they fear Muslim reactions, when it is no longer allowed to hang posters of classic nudes in the metro stations – and the list can be much longer.

These are all incidents that occurred in the Western world in recent years, also in the Netherlands. And they are all signs of the progressing process of islamization. Is a political party allowed to warn society against it? Of course it is. Indeed, it is part of their job to warn society about these dangers.

My criticism of the film 'Fitna' is that Wilders does not deal, or insufficiently, with this aspect of the gradual mental and institutional islamization while it poses a graver threat to the democratic, secular society than the terrorist danger.

Only one sentence in the film refers to this institutional islamization. Wilders presents a voice that says: "The mosque will become part of the Dutch system of government."

I am afraid this has already started. What else does it mean when an official from the youth welfare services can only do his job when he is accompanied by an imam? In this way the state delegates part of its tasks to the mosque. This also proves that the loyalty of these Muslim families lies only with their clergy, not with the government or its officials.

It is a pity that Wilders did not focus more on these aspects. He would have been able to establish that the Muslims are not the only ones to blame. This institutional islamization is frequently enabled by native Dutchmen who already start self-islamizing because they do not have the faintest idea of the separation of church and state.

The most intense part of 'Fitna' is, of course, the first part where we are shown images of terrorist attacks, linked to sermons and verses from the Koran. Wilders wanted to demonstrate the link between the acts of the terrorists and their theological foundation – a link that is categorically denied by all commentators – Muslim or non-Muslim. However, I can still trace most of the sermons by those horrible imams, almost word for word, back to Koranic verses and statements by the prophet Mohammed. Every Muslim I have heard about it rightly distanced themselves, described them as radical and extremist interpretations. The point is, however, that these are not interpretations at all. They are literal quotations from authentic Islamic sources.

What is extremism?

Take Ramadan, for example. The normal principle of faith is that the fasting lasts one month. For that is what the Koran says. It is radical or extreme to fast all year round. Or take prayer. According to Islam prayers must be said five times a day. A religious movement that expects the believers to stay awake all night to pray continuously, can rightly be described as extremist or radical. It deviates too much from what is prescribed in the sources. A simple principle, I would think.

However. What if things were the other way around? I know Muslims who will not use certain medicines if they contain alcohol, because the Koran says you are not allowed to drink alcohol. Are they radical? Or is the Koran radical? The Koran also contains instructions for the believers to slaughter the unbelievers. This is too extreme for most Muslims. They refuse to carry out these prescriptions. It would seem to me that they are more sensible than their holy texts. But what if someone, for whatever reason, takes these commands seriously and acts upon them. Is he extreme or his text?

You don't have to do everything the Koran says, I sometimes tell other Muslims, for example about the headscarf. The guaranteed answer is that you do, because these prescriptions are from a holy book.

There is a wonderful saying in English: You can't have your cake and eat it too.

People want to believe that the texts revealed by God possess a level of wisdom and beauty that is unique. They feel they have the right to profess everything it says literally, even if it deviates from the rules and regulations of this society.

The film 'Fitna' confronts them with a few cruel texts that possess no wisdom, beauty or ethics whatsoever. If the book did not bear the name Koran, the court would have prohibited it immediately. For a sincere believer the film may lead to a fitna, a testing of the faith. Most believers avoid that confrontation, put the blame on the interpretation, on the cleric who recites the texts or the director who makes a film about them.

Of course every person is responsible for his own actions. No text, holy or unholy, may serve as a license to kill another person. As no film or cartoon may serve to justify riots and attacks. How many people will have the courage to endure this confrontation?

In a previous article I wrote that there are moderate Muslims, just no moderate Islam. But anything can happen.

In the meantime I found Muslims Against Sharia, started over a year ago in the United States. This is a Muslim organization for Islamic reform, with thousands of supporters all over the world. Their motto is: acknowledge mistakes, accept responsibility, move on.

The goal of this organization is to raise awareness among Muslims and non-Muslims about the dangers of some Islamic religious texts. And they are against – and this is unique – the introduction of sharia law. On their website you can find a list of verses that the movement describes as 'morally problematic'. Some verses are even described as 'ethically unacceptable'.

Mulsims Against Sharia want to publish a version of the Koran from which all those problematic verses have been removed. No actual tearing out pages from the Koran, but rational evaluation which verses are worth keeping.

And so Wilders gets what he wants after all.

Source: Trouw (English)

Belgium: Iraqis paid up to 20,000 euro for Belgian papers

A dozen people were arrested last week in a human smuggling investigation in Belgium, involving 25 house searches in Brussels and Antwerp. Iraqis had paid 15,000-20,000 euro for Belgian papers.

The investigation had been conducted by the human smuggling department of the Belgian federal police over a year. The people arrested are suspected of human smuggling and gang membership.

Source: HLN (Dutch)

Sweden: Honor violence as reason for asylum

A woman is to be deported to Iraq despite the risk of an honour violence. The Migration Board's (Migrationsverket) conclusion that the risk of honour violence in northern Iraq has declined is at odds with the foreign office and has been criticised by the Red Cross.

The latest two annual reports from the Foreign Ministry (Utrikesdepartementet) of the state of human rights in Iraq indicate that honour violence against women has increased. The report for 2007 reported the deaths of 225 women in the region in the first half of the year alone. A United Nations source is cited in the report as saying that 1-2 new cases are reported each day.

The Swedish Red Cross is vocal in its criticism of the Migration Board's analysis of the situation in northern Iraq.

"It is serious that the Migration Board paints a picture of the situation in Iraq that does not concur with that held by the government, and that it then forms the basis for its decisions," said Bengt Westerberg of the Swedish Red Cross to Dagens Nyheter.

The Red Cross is now helping the woman fight the ruling and is assisting her appeal against the deportation order.

According to the Migration Board there is no guiding principle for how the risk of honour violence can be considered in an asylum decision; the threat picture is considered from case to case. The Board's expert in Iraq questions is quoted by Dagens Nyheter as saying that the authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan function and can give "reasonably effective protection against criminality."

Talking to The Local, Maud Fröberg of the Swedish Red Cross confirmed they have decided to assist the Iraqi woman because their analysis of the situation in Kurdistan concurs with the Foreign Ministry's; that violence against women in the region is on the increase.

Source: The Local (English)

London: Pete Doherty turning to Islam

Pete Doherty is seeking solace in the teachings of Islam, as he serves his 14-week sentence in a London prison.

The Babyshambles frontman has been incarcerated at Wormwood Scrubs jail since 8 April, after breaching the terms of his probation from prior drug offences.

But, according to reports, he has now turned to the holy book the Koran in a bid to turn his drug-addled lifestyle around.

A close pal tells The Sun, "He's been reading the Koran since he went into segregation.

"He's got a lot of Muslim friends and they've been on at him for ages to study it. Now he's on his own he's got time on his hands to study it.

"I'm surprised how much it has calmed him down as he was very on edge inside. He definitely seems more chilled. He's really interested in it. I think it's helping him in there."

Doherty was recently put in an isolated cell after prison authorities thwarted a group of fellow inmates' plots to assault him.

Meanwhile a new art exhibition in Paris featuring his work has been criticised for campaigners for featuring drug needles and the rocker's own blood.

Since the show's opening, the troubled star has been widely condemned by anti-drugs groups for glamorising the use of illegal substances in his artwork, which includes a drawing of ex-girlfriend Kate Moss and his signature scrawled in blood.

The 29-year-old has also failed to impress art experts, with David West, owner of London's Decima Gallery, adding, "It's not got any artistic merit. He's using his blood to make them interesting, but when you look at them they're what any four-year-old can do."

Source: Entertainment Wise (English)

Germany: T-shirt designer spreads Islam

These days, while walking in the streets of any major European town it is quite likely you may come across a young Muslim wearing a T-shirt bearing an interesting messages: "Read Quran, charge your iman" or "I love my Prophet -- Mohammed." These are only two of the many interesting messages a young German citizen of Turkish descent has been trying to spread using the T-shirts of his own making.

You are likely to see these messages not only on T-shirts but also on bags, mugs, mouse pads and even bibs. Other messages include, "Keep smiling, it's sunnah," "Terrorism has no religion," "Drop love, not bombs," "Worship the Creator, not the creation," "Hijab supporter," "Make Çay not War," "Go halal," and "Ummah: be a part of it." All these and more are available on, the Web site of designer, 33-year-old German-born Turk Melih Kesmen.

When cartoons insulting Islam and the Prophet Mohammed hit the headlines around the world, his first reaction was to design a T-shirt with the message, "I Love My Prophet -- Mohammed" and hit the street in London. Upon seeing the great positive reaction he received -- peppered with the few verbal assaults he had anticipated -- he began brainstorming possible ways of spreading Islam's message through a more contemporary and esthetically appealing manner, and came up with slogan-bearing T-shirts.

"We aim to interact with people around us through the messages written on the T-shirts. Basically, we call on non-Muslims to learn about Islam not from the Western media, but from the very people they walk past in the street every day," Kesmen explained, adding that this street fashion aims to present the message in a more appealing way to the youth of Europe.

Little did he guess that that first T-shirt would turn out to be a milestone in his life. What made Kesmen design that T-shirt, however, was not limited to a single incident. Born into a Turkish family in Germany, Kesmen's life was already full of contradictions and ordeals that would soon encourage him to employ extraordinary methods to express himself. In his childhood and early youth, he suffered a sort of "alienation" complex because his hair was not blond, his name not Hans, and myriad other differences between him and the other kids in school such as his eating a sucuk (Turkish garlic sausage) sandwich in class during lunch, while most of the others had chocolate spread in their bread. One day being different suddenly became being cool, however: on that particular summer day, early in June, he came to physical education with a pair of knee-high wrestling shoes, handed down from his elder brother. He was afraid to take them out of his bag for fear of being ridiculed. But when he eventually did and put the shoes on something unexpected happened: All the kids started to stare at this new sports gear with an expression of admiration on their faces. His friends even asked where they could buy a similar pair. That moment, he said, turned all his fears into self-confidence and made him realize that he, as the son of a Muslim Turkish family, also had many advantages over German kids.

Kesmen initially took up graffiti to express his artistic bent, and started pouring a stream of consciousness onto walls, and even train cars, not concerned with conveying any specific message. But when he turned 16, his Islamic sensitivity started haunting him, cautioning against painting walls that did not belong to him and without the permission of their owners. He realized that his graffiti was not lawful either outwardly or inwardly. So he turned from painting walls to designing T-shirts, with the help of equipment given him by his brother, Ufuk.

This was the story until the cartoon crisis. While many set about showing harsh reactions to the blasphemous cartoons, Kesmen sought milder and esthetically more appealing ways to voice his reaction. He came up with "I Love My Prophet" written in the Latin alphabet and "Mohammed" written in Arabic. And with the T-shirt's first outing in London, what he was soon to name "StyleIslam" was born.

'We urge people to think'

The religion of Islam is a very balanced one in many respects, said Kesmen, and he wants to make people take a different
approach to it through his stylized Islamic motifs. In his workshop -- alongside six other people, four of whom wear a headscarf -- he designs items such as T-shirts, buttons, bags, mugs, sweatshirts and bibs and markets them on his Web site.

When we asked him whether he felt Westerners might find his messages provocative -- given that some of the messages include, "Hijab: My Choice, My right, My Life," "Salah, Always get connected," "Mecca," and "Jesus was a Muslim" -- Kesmen, who studied graphic design in Dortmund for one-and-a-half years, said: "Like Muslims, non-Muslims should ask these questions to themselves. Some claim that we provoke them with these T-shirts. But such people are either completely ignorant of Islam or prejudiced. I want to see StyleIslam as a contemporary expression of the Islamic identity. The message of Islam hasn't changed for thousands of years. Only the instruments with which it is communicated vary according to the ages. As somebody hailing from the world of art, I must assume my personal responsibility of communicating Islam in the sphere of art. StyleIslam has turned out to be my experience of living with my Muslim identity. We are Muslims and have nothing to hide. We can proudly carry our message on our chest."

He underscored that Muslims in Europe made a grave mistake after the Sept. 11 attacks by sort of withdrawing into themselves as a community, adding that they had should have open-heartedly been representing Islam in European societies. He also noted that 95 percent of reactions they received were positive, and that most people were very surprised to see how such serious messages could be communicated in a very humorous fashion. "Most non-Muslims think that humor is foreign to Muslims. We will continue resisting the hateful attacks on Islam with our art and by producing new and appropriate designs," he remarked, noting that the reason they wrote the messages in English was a willingness to reach a greater number of people.

He also said that they would soon start using other languages such as French, Spanish and Turkish when they penetrate the markets in these countries. "Our non-Muslim customers are mostly intellectuals who support and approve of this self-confident initiative of Muslims. Our target audience is people between 15 and 50. The 25 items in our product line have their highest demand in Germany, Austria and the Benelux countries. We will include some never-before-tried designs in our collection next year," Kesmen revealed. He stressed that they wanted to initiate a new movement by combining street style with Islamic patterns.

Kesmen and his design team donate 1 euro for each item sold to support African children orphaned by AIDS.

Source: Today's Zaman (English) and StyleIslam

See also: France: Promoting 'cool Islam', Austria: divided welcome for Muslim jeans, Special jeans for praying Muslims

Opinion: Losing the war (of ideas)

The anti-Jihadi conundrum

"Norway as we know it today is seriously threatened by mass immigration. This madness must be stopped before it is too late.."

".. we will therefore actively work to stop all immigration to Norway and send home the immigrants in the cases where it is possible. We are particularly critical of Muslim immigration. We do not recognize Islam as a religion, but see Islam as a political ideology which has as a goal to achieve world domination. Islam is our time's most dangerous enemy. Therefore we have zero tolerance for Islam and we will do what we can to prevent Islam's growth in Norway and shut down all mosques."

There is an on-going debate around the blogosphere about whether all anti-Jihadists are valid partners in the anti-Jihadi fight.

The above was translated from the Norway Patriots (NorgesPatriotene) party program (Norwegian). The party fears a future when ethnic Norwegians would be a minority in their own country. In their explanation to the press (Norwegian), they say it even more plainly: Every country should be populated by its own - Norway by Norwegians and Morocco by Moroccans. Mixing many different groups in one area will inevitably lead to problems. History has shown us through many examples that mixing together different religions, customs and values often leads to bloody conflicts.

The idea that a person is born into a society and that one cannot change one's culture, by the way, is one shared by both racists and multiculturalists.

Not everybody who says that immigration to Europe must be stopped is a racist, of course, but should liberal-democrats who worry about a takeover by a totalitarian movement partner with every racist who says Islam is a threat? Should the threat of being called a Nazi or right-wing extremist mean that one should partner with them?

A recent post "Surrender, Genocide.. or What?" at Gates of Vienna has caused the blog wars to flare again. The post was followed by condemnations from Little Green Footballs and ShrinkWrapped, and then counter-condemnations from Tundra Tabloids and Atlas Shrugs (Eating Our Own).

I have read through most of the above mentioned post, and I disagree with almost everything the writer has to say. I will list here a few points as to how I see the current situation.

The Jihadi war

The percent of radical Muslims who turn to jihad and terror is quite small, particularly when compared to the many movements who support jihad, and justify it in certain cases (Jews, Israel) but who do not actively engage in violence themselves.

Is Europe losing the terrorism war? There are news about terror threats every other day, but the last successful terror attack in Europe was in 2004, and in the US - in 2001. In Europe, at least, in the past four years, despite quite a few attempts, Islamic jihadists have failed in carrying out a large scale attack. Some attacks failed due to either luck or miracles, but most failed because the perpetrators were caught by security forces. Anybody want to consider how security forces have such tight control over jihadi groups?

The next successful terror attack might be right around the corner, but I doubt that is going to cause Europe to fall.

The Ethnic Nation

Much has been written, in blogs and in books, about the dangers of Islamic extremism in Europe. Are genocide and civil war the only possible options?

Most Western European countries have a Muslim population of less than 5%. Is Europe really incapable of dealing with such a small minority, even if it was 100% seditious?

The answer to that relates to something's that's been on my mind for the past few weeks. Is Europe capable of dealing with minorities at all?

To my American readers: try to think when was the last time you ever thought of anybody born in America as a 'foreigner' or considered the idea of a non-American American. Have you ever met an American born to a mixed marriage of an immigrant and an American who felt he wasn't accepted as an American? How about calling a third generation American a "New American"? (See here, here, here, and here, as well as my review of 'While Europe Slept'). Muslim immigrants are expected to fit in, but I have yet to see that they are truly given the opportunity of doing so.

Though I have thought differently in the past, ethnicism is racism. It can be clothed in political-correctness or masquerade in multiculturalism. Most of the world runs on ethnic lines, and so it is a granted way of life for most. Changing it might be impossible, but it is an issue Europe must be aware of.

The war of ideas

Europe, and the West, are facing a war, certainly, but at its essence the war is a war of ideas.

Take what a Muslim extremist like Qaradawi says: "I expect that Islam will conquer Europe without resorting to the sword or fighting. It will do so by means of da'wa and ideology. Europe is miserable with materialism, with the philosophy of promiscuity, and with the immoral considerations that rule the world – considerations of self-interest and self-indulgence. It is high time Europe woke up and found a way out from this."

In my opinion, in this war, the Muslims are winning. They are not winning because they offer a better solution, as Qaradawi would like to think. They're winning because there's no other solution in sight.

Consider all the books and blog posts which have been written in the past few years about Jihad and Muslim extremism. How many have dealt with the values the West has to offer? To some it might be too obvious, not worth mentioning really. How many have seriously discussed Muslim claims and Western responses?

'Islamists and Naivists' is a good starter when it comes to freedom of speech, but that book was not translated into English, and as far as I know, it stands alone. For most other topics, the playing field is left wide open. Native 'ethnic' westerners convert to Islam because totalitarianism does exert a pull of its own, because it is easier to show submission than to take responsibility for every act and every decision in daily life, and because nobody ever told them what their own culture - Western culture - has to offer.

On the other hand, a lack of understanding of what freedom of speech and freedom of religion come to protect, has caused both of these freedoms to be abused and misused by totalitarian forces intent on undermining and subverting democracy.

For quite a while I've been thinking of starting such a project on my own, and I might still do so, but the task is daunting and requires much study of Western thought and philosophy.

The Future

If Europe resorts to genocide, civil war, or mass deportations - Europe might be 'Islam-free', but the war would be lost. Liberal-democratic values would be trampled down. Besides, what do you think would happen a few generations later, when Europe once again begs remorse for past sins?

My 2-cents on how to deal with Muslim extremism? I will list a few ideas, without going too deeply into each:
1. Accept converts into Western society and into European nations.
2. Fight extremist Islam. It is not a war against the West alone, it is a war many Muslim countries are facing as well.
3. Acknowledge and teach the values of the liberal Western culture

The debate is essential, because it is what defines us. I do not agree with every blog post on anti-Jihadi sites and I stand by my right to say so. If 'eating our own' is prohibited, if the debate is banned, if submission is required, you might as well give up on the future of western liberalism.